Pubdate: Mon, 08 Apr 2002
Source: Dayton Daily News (OH)
Copyright: 2002 Dayton Daily News
Authors: Margaret Knapke, Robert Sharpe


The Dayton Daily News came dangerously close to an insight at the end of 
the March 28 editorial, "Turn on Colombia no great danger."

The editorial stated: "Given that the United States is where much of (the 
drug cartels') profits come from, so should the United States be where some 
of their trouble comes from." Quite so. And the best way to diminish their 
profits is to address the demand for drugs in the United States.

Even the conservative Rand Corp. has concluded that, dollar for dollar, 
providing drug treatment to U.S. cocaine users is 10 times more effective 
than drug interdiction, and 23 times more effective than coca eradication. 
Given these figures--and the fact that fumigated crops are simply replanted 
on uncultivated lands--one might conclude that the people crafting our drug 
war policies are dimwits. But this would presume that the drug war really 
is about drugs. Arguably, fumigation is really about forcing the rural 
Colombian poor from their lands, so that oil companies can exploit the 
crude underneath. The Dayton Daily News say, "By now, it's all about 
drugs." No, it's still about taking the repression of the Colombian people, 
and their crude, all the way to the bank.

Margaret Knapke


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Ohio Sen. Mike DeWine describes Colombia as a national security problem. 
But forcibly limiting supply while demand for drugs remains constant only 
increases the profitability of drug trafficking. Afghanistan's Taliban 
regime profited from the opium trade because of drug prohibition, not in 
spite of it. Sooner or later the self-professed champions of the free 
market in Congress are going to have to wake up to the supply-side drug 
war's inherent failure. The Bush plan could very well spread both coca 
production and civil war throughout the region. Eradicating plants abroad 
and building prisons at home is not going to make the U.S. "drug-free."

While U.S. politicians ignore the clear historical precedent in alcohol 
prohibition, European countries are embracing harm reduction, a public 
health alternative based on the principle that both drug use and drug 
prohibition have the potential to cause harm.

Examples include needle exchange programs to stop the spread of HIV, 
marijuana regulation aimed at separating the hard and soft drug markets, 
and treatment alternatives that do not require incarceration as a 
prerequisite. Unfortunately, fear of appearing soft on crime compels many 
U.S. politicians to support a neverending drug war that effectively 
subsidizes organized crime at home and terrorists abroad.

Robert Sharpe, M.P.A.

Washington, D.C.

Mr. Sharpe is a program officer for Drug Policy Alliance in Washington, DC.
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